Tuesday, July 15, 2008

More communication the key, say climate change experts

Lloyd’s.com: Representatives from the insurance, risk modelling and scientific fraternities met in New York last month for the second catastrophe modelling forum, co-sponsored by Lloyd’s. The forum discussed how best to include climate change risks in the cat modelling process, and touched on a wide range of issues from atmospheric pressure to ocean temperatures to ice sheet reduction.

While there were many varying opinions, those assembled agreed that communicating the risks of climate change are essential and that until the public gains a greater understanding of the complex nature of the issue, it will be difficult to establish the political and social movement required to combat the risks.

…And while there is an apparent upward trend in weather-related losses, the most significant drivers in the coastal regions are socio-economic, noted modelling firm AIR Worldwide. “In the US, there is an increase in risk of roughly 7% every year, equating to a doubling of risk every decade, as a result of the continual increase in the number of exposed properties and the cost to rebuild them,” said Senior Vice President Jayanta Guin.

…The possibility for abrupt change was considered, and the forum was informed that some of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s projections had been shown to be consistently “underestimating the risks”.

….At the end of the event, forum attendees were asked to vote on a number of statements to test the level of consensus about various modelling aspects. Such statements included: …. “the industry would benefit from an open architecture modelling approach”, thus allowing modellers to mix and match different hazard, and vulnerability models and to tap into the resources at academic institutions around the world. Sixty percent of insurance industry representatives agreed along with 40% of catastrophe modellers. Some catastrophe modellers cautioned that such a project would be complex, while others felt that the simplest issue to address would be the hazard component which would allow academic knowledge from around the world to be incorporated.

Hurricane Katrina caused extensive damage all along the Mississippi gulf coast, including in Gulfport. Photo by FEMA, Wikimedia Commons

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